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At the beginning of the 19th century, Barcelona’s population became too big, and it expanded into the new Eixample, or 'extension' in Catalan: a repeating grid of square blocks, each with a garden in its center. A new architectural style emerged with characteristic Catalan art nouveau, the most impressive example of which is Antonio Gaudi's soaring Sagrada Familia. Still unfinished, this remarkable landmark has been aptly described as 'warped Gothic' and offers vertigo-inducing views from its ornamented spires.

Two more of Gaudi’s masterpieces – Casa Batlló and La Pedrera – are within close walking distance, and do not share a single straight line or right angle between them. Walking up the Avinguda Gaudí, visitors reach the Hospital de Sant Pau, a functioning modernist hospital surrounded by sculptures, mosaics and gardens that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Characterized by upscale shops, the Eixample remains mostly upper-middle class, yet its uniquely modern character makes it a fascinating place to explore, ideally on foot. Hotels such as Hotel Majestic offer spectacular cityscape views from their rooftops. The charming cafes, restaurants and fancy boutiques below have a distinct character, and set a tone for morning and evening walks. Eixample is considered the nightlife centre of Barcelona, and contains one of the city's gay villages, nicknamed the ‘Gaixample’. The area is well served by metro stops.

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